Happy 50th Birthday COBOL

It’s a shame that I don’t get fired more information about languages. In that my ‘beat’ is somewhat focused on software application development, the amount of news that seems to hit me that doesn’t really seem to feature any real aspect of a software LANGUAGE is, well, a bit of a let down sometimes.

It’s a shame that I don’t get fired more information about languages. In that my ‘beat’ is somewhat focused on software application development, the amount of news that seems to hit me that doesn’t really seem to feature any real aspect of a software LANGUAGE is, well, a bit of a let down sometimes.

Happy days then as today is the 50th birthday of one of the most pervasive software languages ever produced – COBOL.

COmmon Business-Oriented Language has for many slipped off the sexy-software radar-o-meter. But it is of course still underpinning many successfully installed long term legacy systems.

NB: a CTO once said to me, “There’s no such thing as legacy systems, it’s just older software that still works like it’s supposed to.”

You might like to know, given that this is its ‘special day’, that the name COBOL was chosen during a meeting of the Short Range Committee, the organisation responsible for submitting the first version of the language on 18th September 1959.

A meeting at the Pentagon where the guidelines for COBOL were first laid down followed that Short Range Committee shindig.

COBOL today underpins a huge amount of global ATM transactions, and according to enterprise application management company Micro Focus, is currently running nearly three quarters of the world’s business applications.

The company says there are over 200 billion lines of COBOL code in existence today and in May this year, Micro Focus published research which showed that people still use COBOL at least ten times throughout the course of an average working day. Yet, despite using the technology so often, only 18% of those surveyed had ever actually heard of COBOL.

So then, happy birthday dear COBOL - how many other languages will make it to so such a ripe old age if they are born in 2009. Not many I’d bet.